Calls for musicians to be supported following 2020 Guinness Cork Jazz Festival cancellation

Calls for musicians to be supported following 2020 Guinness Cork Jazz Festival cancellation
New York Brassband kicked off the 42nd Guinness Cork Jazz Festival weekend with aperformance on Emmet Place last year.Picture: Clare Keogh

A Cork musician has said it’s “crucial” that the industry is supported following the cancellation of the 2020 Guinness Cork Jazz Festival.

Stephen Kelly, who is a member of the RTÉ Concert Orchestra and who also lectures at the CIT Cork School of Music, plays at the festival every year, as does his wife - a freelance musician - along with many of their friends.

When the announcement was made that the festival was cancelled, all of their reactions were of disappointment to the outright cancellation.

Mr Kelly said he feels the offer of a “philanthropic gesture” by Guinness to support musicians who have had no gigs for months, and are likely to stay that way for some time, would have been welcomed.

Mr Kelly said that the whole Arts sector has been “devastated” by Covid-19, and that while the hospitality sector will be hit by the loss of the festival, musicians will be hit even harder.

“We should be in no doubt that the hardest hit by the cancellation of a music festival are musicians themselves,” he said, adding that pubs and hotels are open.

“They’re able to at least start. Musicians are still waiting.

“Everyone wants to get back, but we’ll be the last back,” he said.

Mr Kelly said an online festival would have aided the musicians who have been on the Pandemic Unemployment Payment for months.

He said many live streams are happening in places across the world with musicians in clubs, while people at home can watch and donate online.

Mr Kelly also pointed to the West Cork Chamber Music Festival which was cancelled but said that musicians were paid for video and audio recordings of chamber music which the festival then released on their website.

“These things are happening, and it’s just a shame that Guinness didn’t do anything similar,” he said, saying if they had it would have shown “solidarity and support.” 

Mr Kelly described the future for freelance musicians as “ever more bleak” as each festival gets cancelled, but is hopeful to be able to do something online with the Cork School of Music for their students who would have participated in the Jazz Festival “so that they’re not left behind.”

He has also contacted local councillors on the issue, with Sinn Féin's Mick Nugent hoping to raise it at Monday's monthly Council meeting.

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